The garbage truck wakes me up early this morning. This isn’t anything new. The garbage truck always wakes me up Fridays; what was different about it this time was that I was too jittery about it to get back to sleep afterwards. I tossed and turned in bed for about a half hour before getting up to shower. The morning is wasted compulsively cleaning the house, de-snailing my fish tank (seek out and squish) and reorganizing the bathroom cabinet. A lot of time spent furiously accomplishing nothing important. In retrospect I realize I was too nervous to have an appetite, and didn’t have a bite to eat.
At one thirty I leave the house and walk through the park to catch the bus up the hill. It takes me three tries to get out the door. I have to check if the garbage can has been brought in off the curb. I remember I’m supposed to put a skirt in my bag for the evening’s plans after the protest. I can’t remember if I turned my alarm clock off or not. I lock the door and check the knob behind me, and make it out onto the street, still fighting down anxiety.
The indecision extends to the music I’m playing on my headset. I can’t settle on anything, flicking through my usually favourite with angry dissatisfaction. I’m half-way to campus before it occurs to me that the only thing that’s going to be listenable is clearly Queen. Don’t stop me now. R has class until two twenty and I get up to campus at two, so I move in circles. I go to the pub and ask about tickets for the party that night. I go to the cafeteria and buy a bottle of orange juice, a bottle of water, and two granola bars.
I go to the concourse computing facility. We will rock you. Killing time is agonizing somehow. I check my email, and fire off a few replies. I take a sip of my orange juice and realize it’s ‘the official juice of the Olympics.’ Idly, I google-news ‘olympic protests feb 12’ and read the articles that pull up. I stick the orange juice back in my bag and realize I’m hungry, but I can’t really eat in the computing facility. I move out into the hall and eat one of my granola bars. Robin calls and says to meet him at Cornerstone.
I talk to my mother on the phone while waiting for him in the coffee shop. The conversation is vague, and surprisingly ordinary given how anxious she’s been about all this so far. We hang up quickly. I want to break free. R shows up, bouncing on the balls of his feet and waving cheerfully, playing with the strings hanging off the ear flaps of his hat. We get on the 135 together and bus down the hill to his apartment, where he drops off his books and I leave behind my things. The pile of stuff I leave on his chair include my credit card, the damn Olympic orange juice, my day planner, a pair of high heels and a skirt. The plan is that we’ll finish with the protest, come back, warm up, and go up the hill to the rowing party fundraiser tonight, since the organizers are mutual friends.
He grabs his camera, and we hurry out the door. The bus starts to go by as we reach Hastings, and we chase it for half a block. The sprint is just long enough that my heart is pounding by the time we do board.
The ride down town is interminable. People get on and off at almost every stop. Everyone around us seems to be talking about the Olympics. We’re next to two VANOC volunteer girls, who are discussing their postings. We run into another mutual friend who tells us happily that she’s going to the opening ceremonies tonight. She has a temporary tattoo maple leaf on one cheek. R glances at me sideways, and neither of us mentions that we’re headed to a protest.
By the time we reach down town, the bus has nearly emptied, and we’re running late. The protest is due to congregate at the Vancouver Art Gallery at three, and it’s nearly three thirty. We turn up a street and the bus very quickly slams on the breaks; the entire road is at a dead stop. The march has already begun.
Of the ten or twenty people left on the bus, one woman rushes to the front immediately and asks to be let off. The driver answers that he can’t legally do that until he can pull up to a curb. We’re actually parked at this point, and to make matters worse, someone has decided to install the bus with an extra-loud anti-crowd horn that sounds like something that belongs on one of the BC Ferries. The driver honks it periodically as his passengers get more and more fraught.
R and I glance at each other. The march is maybe a city block ahead. We can see signs being waved, but can’t read them. Someone is carrying a torch. The man in the seat behind us leaps to his seat and stalks to the front of the bus.
“Fucking protesters,” he snarls as he goes, obviously furious with the situation. The bus lurches forwards a few feet, and he begins to get into a shouting match with the driver. He’s a reporter. He starts swearing loudly about the event ahead, but garners no real support from the rest of the passengers other than an unhappy mutter; the aggressiveness towards the driver is really what does him in. No one seems to be on his side at all, and he realizes it, shortly. Still, he asks out loud, “Why don’t they just call the police?”
At this point, R snorts and pretends it’s a cough. Later, out of earshot, he’ll perform a fictional conversation with a police officer. ‘Um, sir, there are three thousand people on the road blocking traffic with signs and fire.’ ‘Oh shit, I had no idea, son, I had better get down there. To the batmobile!’
As the angry reporter sits down into a seat, someone on the bus pulls the string to let the driver know ‘next stop.’ We’ve been sitting at a dead stop begging to be let off for fifteen minutes at this point. The bell goes, and the entire bus bursts into uncomfortable laughter. The reporter mutters that he’s late for work, and one of the poor VANOC girls is babbling an explanation into her cell phone. In all, the lot of us are stuck on the bus until about ten to four, until we can finally get to a curb.
At least R and I don’t need to worry about finding where the protest is? We sprint down the street after it, ignoring the blaring car horns, and approach it through the crowd. I overhear snatches of conversation that seems to echo the sentiments of the people on the bus with us. A woman reassures her partner that “Well, that’s what having your say is,” and he agrees a little too hurriedly, obviously as an amendment to something critical he’d just said.
( and then things get interesting )